A job seeker wrote in with a question about interviews:

I’m a bit curious.. As recruiters you probably conduct hundreds of interviews, so it had me thinking – are there any common interview questions that people often answer badly? I consider myself a pretty good interviewee but my recent string of rejections had me wondering if there’s something I’m doing wrong!

Very interesting question! Firstly, we don’t conduct hundreds of interviews.. we conduct THOUSANDS of them each year. Job seekers are pretty savvy these days with lots of interview tips available to them, but we all trip up now and again. The most common mistake interviewees make is not being prepared and tailoring their responses to the job.

Let’s take a look at three common interview questions that can be surprisingly tricky to answer:

Tell me about yourself?

Be careful not to get too personal. This is your opportunity to give your ‘business’ 30-60 second elevator pitch. This will include highlights of your most recent role, snapshot of your education (only if it is applicable) and your most recent accomplishments. Then wrap up by saying in my spare time I like to do X, Y, Z. If your hobbies include anything political or religious do not include them in your pitch (or on your resume).

The employer is looking to see how well you ‘flow’ to them, and is evaluating your overall communication skills. Your answer should not be longer than 1 minute.

Why did you choose our organization?

Preparation is key here! This is where you get a chance to show what you have learned about the company. Start with the information you gathered on the website and then progress to what you think would be a good cultural FIT (something your recruiter would have spent time discussing with you at great length). Point out the reasons why the organization intrigues you.

Employers expect that have done your homework – they want you to want THEM, not just a new job/ career.

Never say to an employer or recruiter “I am always on the look out for new opportunities” or “I have applied to many jobs in X field”. Instead, say “I applied to your role because the industry itself is appealing to me because.. (reason)”. Give a quick overview of the company showing what you have learned and end in something positive about the organization.

Why should we hire you?

Know your strengths, and mention ones that are relevant to the job you’re being interviewed for. Use examples of when you used these skills. It is not enough to just say you have the skills. The employer is looking for a reason to hire you, give him that reason and sell yourself.

Aside from your hard skills noted on your resume employers are looking for 4 things:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem solving ability
  • Team player
  • “Can do” attitude

When you agree to an interview 50% of the battle has already been won – they like what they see on your resume; the interview is all about FIT. You often only get one chance to sell yourself during a face-to-face meeting. I know our parents taught us to be modest; however, an interview is not the time to practice modesty – SELL YOURSELF! Let employers know why they should hire you instead of the next person walking through the door.